Friday, April 22, 2016

Ode to Joy


Do you know the game Smoke? It's sort of a Twenty Questions only with no limit to the questions and with more verve and flavor. There's one: If Grace Kelly were a flavor, which flavor would she be? (The taste of an over-ripe pear?) If JFK were a car, which one? If Obama a city? (Gotta be someplace bland, smug, predictable, middle-brow, and entirely safe. Portland. No wonder Robert Kennedy lost Oregon.) If Oliver Hardy were a building? The Chrysler Building a person? Cary Grant a drink? (The 50s Cary Grant. The screwball Grant?) The movie Vertigo a flower? A wonderful game. It brings you closer to the heart of the answer and of the question.

Here's an easy one. If my daughter Saya were a movie. . . .

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Bringing Up Baby (1938) is silly, sweet, smart, stylish, serious, and interested in only one thing: having fun from dawn 'til dawn. As the song says, the picture can't give you anything but love (baby). Dr. David Huxley (Cary Grant) takes all things very seriously within his very narrow world, a world within which he can barely move without falling down or speak without stammering. Over the course of a miraculous day-and-night, Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) steals his golf ball, steals his car, rips his tail coat, nearly causes him to be mauled by a leopard, steals another car with David as accomplice, knocks a chicken truck off the road also with David as accomplice, steals his clothes, gets him arrested, and loses his Intercostal Clavicle (plus a million-dollar grant and the fiancée that came with it). By the end of the night, David wouldn't have it any other way. . .

As in all the best works of Howard Hawks -- The Big Sleep, Only Angels Have Wings, His Girl Friday, To Have and Have Not, Rio Bravo, El Dorado, Scarface, Twentieth Century, Red River, Monkey Business, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Man's Favorite Sport? -- the atmosphere thrown around us is the atmosphere in which life and death are equal, the movement is the movement that speeds on its way beyond good and evil, toward elation and transcendence.

Happiness and, I guess, all those things you've always pined for. . . .